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In recent years, countless talk shows, news documentaries and celebrities have called attention to the inhumane conditions in puppy mills. As if this environment isn’t bad enough, a new study shows that the effects of these facilities extends far beyond the dirty kennels and rampant illness.
The animal welfare organization, Best Friends Animal Society, teamed up with veterinarians, James Serpell and Deborah Duffy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine on a study that looked at the psychological effects of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding operations  (aka, puppy mills). Their research found that puppy mill dogs struggled long after leaving the facility.
The Best Friends–UPenn study is the first to compare the psychological and behavioral characteristics of over 1,000 puppy mill dogs with pets acquired from other sources. The findings showed significantly elevated fear levels, compulsive behaviors, house soiling and a heightened sensitivity to being touched.
I think that the psychological effects are due to two main factors inherent in puppy mills, so legislation aimed at improving conditions wouldn’t make much of a difference in long-term behavior.
First, the puppies are not socialized. A good breeder takes the time to ensure their puppies are familiar with strange sounds, people and environments. Dogs born in a puppy mill only see a cage until they’re purchased.
Second, puppy mills breed dogs without regard to temperament, so many of these pets are already predisposed to fear or compulsive behaviors.
The study is certainly not surprising, but I hope that it will strengthen efforts to ban puppy mills instead of simply regulating conditions.